By Ana Theresa Williams,BSN,RN
Since the month of May is celebrated as Hypertension Awareness Month, we will learn more about how to care for your heart because hypertension is one of the most common cardiovascular diseases today not only in the Philippines, but in the whole world.
Adult cardiologist Bernard Chiew,M.D. of Davao Doctors Hospital said aside from hypertension, coronary artery disease and stroke or brain attack are the other common cardiovascular problems in the country and in the whole world.
The DOH statistics shows that cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, coronary artery diseases, and strokes are the number one cause of mortality in the country for several years now. It is also the second most common cause of morbidity or illness, next only to communicable diseases related to pulmonary infections, Dr. Chiew noted.
“As an internist/cardiologist,” he said, “most or 70% of my out-patient and in-patient cases are cardiovascular diseases.
The medical expert said cardiovascular diseases are the usual complications of underlying risk factors. There are the non-modifiable risk factors (which means you can’t do anything anymore) such as age, sex, and family history of heart ailments. On the other hand, the modifiable risk factors or things that you can monitor and control includes the hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, among others. And if left uncontrolled, these can lead to coronary artery disease and/or stroke, Dr. Chiew warned.
Regarding herbal medicines, he said these are actually proven to have modest effect on specific ailments or medical conditions. Before they are labelled as “herbal” medicines, the BFAD requires that they should be proven to be safe and effective.
“The level of evidence required for the approval of herbal medicine is not as strict as that required of the ethical drugs. Ethical drugs are those that the doctors normally prescribe in the course of their practice. Before they are approved, they must show evidence of safety and efficacy using more stringent scientific trials,” he explained.
The main issue is actually on food supplements, Dr. Chiew said.
“These are the products that you see on mass media being promoted as a cure for all. As a food supplement, they are only required to show a study that they are safe. They are not required to show any evidence that they are effective. This is the reason for the labeling of ‘no approved therapeutic claims.'”
He said, unfortunately, the government is not doing a good job at monitoring the advertising of the food supplements. In their food supplement ads, they rely on testimonials claiming cure from all sorts of illness.
They still show the “no approved therapeutic claims” phrase obscurely but the damage of false advertising has been done already, he said.
The adult cardiologist added that the biggest problem with food supplement is not only about whether they are effective or not, but they also give the patients a false sense of security that they are addressing their medical conditions when actually they are not. Consequently, most patients tend to stop their maintenance medicines with disastrous effects on their health.
Therefore, to keep yourself healthy, practicing a healthy lifestyle is all that you needed, Dr. Chiew advises.
“It entails regular exercise, at least 30 minutes of cardio exercises 3 x a week, with proper diet. Keep your modifiable risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia under control. Stop smoking and lose weight. Keep a stress-free and healthy mind,” he said.